Amid all his justified anger at his side’s “joke” of a fixture list, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer paused long enough to put his side’s performance into context.
“They were on their knees,” he said. “So to come here after not getting back from Turkey until five on Thursday morning and win like that…well, that character is amazing. The mentality, the determination. It was all there.”
He may have added they did it against an Everton side who had worked all week on a play-book uniquely equipped to hurt them.
And against one of the world’s best coaches who knows exactly how to twist the knife.
He wouldn’t say so himself but he could also have added that his Manchester United team were not just on their knees because of tiredness.
The pressure of their situation – and the unrelenting questions about their manager – have exposed a mental frailty at times.
It is little wonder.
If this victory showed anything, it is United’s almost schizophrenic character.
Coming as it did so soon after a lamentable European midweek performance it offers a stark comment on Solskjaer’s reign.
This is a manager who began in the Old Trafford hot seat with one defeat in 17 but ended that season with two wins in 12.
The following season it was three wins in 12 to start but just two defeats in 25 at the end of last season.
Now they have a lamentable single point from 12 at home but nine from nine away.
There is one thing consistent about his side…their total inconsistency.
It wasn’t evident at Goodison.
To go a goal down to a simple punt upfield – and have their defence ripped wide apart by the mere presence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s aerial threat – was a danger sign that blared like a klaxon.
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Yet somehow United recovered from that brutal exposure, somehow found some fluency, and scored two wonderfully simple goals of their own to fight back and then cling on, albeit by their fingertips, in a frantic finale when Abdoulaye Doucoure should have, scored, and the visitors swept to the other end to finish the job.
That showed, at the very least, Solskjaer hasn’t yet lost his players.
They still are ready to fight for him, as he implied with his passionate comments afterwards.
“I can’t praise the boys enough for the character that they’ve shown. It was important,” he said.
“I like everything about my team – since yesterday, we could see they would not let anyone take anything when we are unfairly treated. Fair play, every single one of them gave everything, the mentality was amazing.
Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the root cause of Manchester United’s inconsistency? Have your say here.
“Fernandes was brilliant. He’s a great character. Like everyone else – you could see the determination in the team. The mentality, even though they were on their knees at the end.”
Fernandes, along with the equally impressive Marcus Rashford, was the difference, scoring a fine header from Luke Shaw’s simple cross to level Bernard’s opener, and then chipping in as his strike partner distracted Jordan Pickford.
But the brilliant of United’s front line hid a mundanity in the rest of their play.
They were not even bullied by Calvert-Lewin, just brushed aside at times. And that one routine cross from Shaw aside, their full backs don’t penetrate as modern full backs should.
There is not enough creativity outside Fernandes and Rashford and that leads to an inconsistency when the pair don’t produce magic.
The concern is, the coaching and tactics is not bringing out the best of a talented squad. Those worrying stats suggest as much.
For Solskjaer, though, it is a matter of maturity, not coaching.
They are inconsistent because of the workload, he said, but also because of concentration.
“If we can get this determination, mindset, approach every single game, we’ll be hard to play against,” he said.
“You see all the tackles that Scott and Fred were winning in the middle there, we’re tight, we’re compact, we win the ball, we play, we’ve got spaces, that’s how we want to see these boys all the time. We’re very pleased with that.”
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